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Robert Littal
National Blogger

Robert Littal

CEO of Black Sports Online which brings the truth in sports.

Choker Manning


I will never forget it -- an underdog team playing a heavily favored team in Super Bowl. The favorite had a quarterback in his prime that everyone was saying he had the opportunity to be the best ever. The quarterback had already won one Super Bowl and a 2nd Super Bowl would put him in the Montana discussion.

As the game played out it was very competitive, but the underdog pulled ahead late by seven points. Everyone thought the "Prime" quarterback would lead his team to a tying touchdown, but a funny thing happened, he didn't and the underdog won a Super Bowl that they seemed "destine" to win.

The date, January 25th 1998.

The "Prime" Quarterback was Brett Favre and the underdog team was the Denver Broncos.

Favre ended up breaking a lot of records, but he's never been back to the Super Bowl and, honestly, it is the only reason that many don't consider him the greatest of all time.

Fast forward twelve years and Peyton Manning had his chance.

His chance to be on that Montana level, to do what his main rival Tom Brady has done time and time again in the Super Bowls. It was right in front of him and he failed.

For full disclosure, Reggie Wayne could have run his route better but, no excuses, Manning threw a ball he shouldn't have.

Many years ago I coined the phrase "Choker Manning" because up to 2006 he had never won a championship on any level. In the biggest games of his career, up to that point, he had played his worst games.

The Quarterback position is about not just producing in the regular season, but performing in the playoffs. Manning finally won his ring, but as we chronicled in the "5 Reasons Super Bowl Prediction" he didn't have that defining moment.

He had that moment staring at him and he blinked. Legendary quarterbacks simply can not blink and throughout his career Manning has blinked a lot.

He is now 9-9 in the playoffs and 1-1 in Super Bowls. Brett Favre, the man who Peyton Manning will one day pass in the record books, is 12-10 in the playoffs and 1-1 in Super Bowls. Peyton Manning is a first ballot Hall of Famer just like Favre, but right now he isn't on the Mount Rushmore of Greatest Quarterbacks of all time.

Peyton Manning is one of the best of all time, but will never be considered "THE BEST" until he has that defining moment and wins multiple Super Bowls. He has every skill you would in a quarterback except that skill you can't define. Montana had it. Brady had it. Bradshaw had it.

When the lights were the brightest they played their best. The good news for Manning is that he has many years to redeem himself. Someone should ask Favre if he would trade some yards, some games played, some TDs to have a chance to repeat that final drive against the Broncos twelve years ago. I know he would.

Hopefully twelve years from now when Manning is nearing the end of his career he isn't wondering the same thing.

By Robert Littal  |  February 8, 2010; 6:08 AM ET  | Category:  Peyton Manning Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Great article til the end there (prob thrown up on the web too quick.) In 12 years Manning will not be "winding his career down" he will be long retired. The man is 33 about to be 34 in 12 years he will be long retired. He's no Brett. I'd say 4-6 years left max.

My other point is it is silly to try and wrap up the Manning/Brady debate until it is all said and done for both of them. But how are you going to argue against Brady if he gets a 4th ring? Like the ladies would say; "It's all about the diamonds on the finger boys!"

Posted by: umtssoftball | February 8, 2010 6:51 AM

Sometimes the game is still the worst part of the event.. I wonder if Kendra's fumble fingered husband is going to get cut of for a while. Congrat's to the Saints.. a true success story.. never again will they be the 'Aints!

Posted by: newbeeboy | February 8, 2010 7:19 AM

$14 million a year. More in endorsements. Won one Super Bowl. Sounds like Manning is Phil the Thrill more than the loser you are portraying Manning to be. Phil Mickelson is looking pretty good now in comparison to Tiger, eh? When your life is one glorious moment after another and you have earned more money than any of us will in a lifetime by playing one game, how can you complain? Without Manning, do you think the Colts sniff success? Give me a break.

Posted by: KDSmallJr | February 8, 2010 10:37 AM

As a New England Patriots fan and a Washington Redskins fan (from the George Allen/Joe Gibbs era), I give Tom Brady the edge. Peyton can put up the gaudy statistics, but when it comes down to the true test of the Super Bowl, Tom Brady is a winner hands down!

Posted by: adamslasser | February 8, 2010 11:27 AM

Someone wrote that Phil is looking better than Tiger. LOL
Put the whiskey down.
Phil has just THREE majors in 20 years of PGA play, 11 fewer than Tiger.

And Manning isn't even Aikman, who never lost a Super Bowl while also winning game MVP once as Manning has. But Aikman also has THREE titles, as many as Phil the underachiever.

The fact that Tiger could routinely beat Phil and the field while chasing ladies and being married with kids tells how lousy Phil is.

Posted by: kedavis | February 8, 2010 11:29 AM

THe title of your "piece" is all wrong. Manning didn't choke; the defense never showed up to play. If you had watched the game, rather than the commercials, you would have noticed the lack of enthusiasm the defense conveyed. Sad as it is, it takes more than a quarterback to win a game.

Posted by: jreincke1 | February 8, 2010 12:06 PM

Manning didn't choke so much as NO made a great play at a great time.

Remember, NO was trying to win the game, too.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | February 8, 2010 1:27 PM

This type of comparison is intrinsically unfair. Winning football games is a team effort. The so called supporting cast is just as important as the QB. Although, QBs always bear most of the blame for losing the game.

Posted by: DougNYC | February 8, 2010 1:45 PM

"He has every skill you would in a quarterback except that skill you can't define. Montana had it. Brady had it. Bradshaw had it."

I can define it: one of the best defenses in the league.

Posted by: dhrun | February 8, 2010 2:27 PM

Manning had 8 drives. He had scores on 3 of them. Give NO credit, they managed to keep him off the field and it worked. It is a team game, the team lost it. I'm still not over the Colts sneaking out of Baltimore, so it is hard for me to say this but Manning is still a contender for greatest ever.

Posted by: BobbyJ | February 8, 2010 2:45 PM

They, Manning, Brady and Favre are all still in the game (Favre hasn't retired yet!)so as long as they are still playing, it's not over! You can't ever judge a career until the is no more to add. Bradyseems to have fallen off, but Favre showed this year that age is just a number. He had a great season and came so close. This was the year of the Saints and I'm glad. They have been through a lot in that part of the country and this win is good for everybody, especially the team that has never been there, done that. From all reports, Drew Brees has been a leader on and off the field in helping to rebuild New Orleans. Even some Colts fans had to pull for N.O. this time out. When you got The Who playing the halftime show for the Who Dat nation, what other outcome could there be?

Posted by: alaskan2 | February 8, 2010 3:08 PM

Interesting, but not surprising that you put no accountability on Cadwell. It seems to me that he was flat outcoached by Sean Peyton. Cadwell had a very conservative and uninspired game plan. He was afraid to make mistakes. He didn't serve his QB well. I assume since Manning has at least won a Super Bowl, you have passed the monicker "Choker" over to McNabb

Posted by: fishndude | February 8, 2010 4:06 PM

Drew Brees tied the Superbowl record for completed passes at 32...Manning was chomping at his heels with 31, though. Or maybe it was 32, he just happened to make that last completion to the wrong team. Either way, both quarterbacks played a great game - Manning's reputation isn't irreparably scratched, it just needs a little polishing.

Posted by: sciencegrrl | February 8, 2010 5:19 PM

Manning and Co. should have tried for the perfect season. You play to win. They backed down from the challenge, and when it mattered most in the SB Manning let his nerves get to him.

Coming off the perfect season the Colts swagger would have been at its highest point. The Saints would have feared them... Giving the mental edge to the Colts.

Posted by: -CMAC- | February 8, 2010 5:43 PM

Ahhhh..The voice of reason, thanks, Mr. Litall.

I've been half-nauseous listening to these Peyton-Sniffers feed us this nonsense that Peyton is the best of his generation, best ever, fill in the blank. Me, I don't give him credit for being even the best 1-ring QB of his generation. After Favre, that's Brees, because as they say, what have ya done for me lately? 1-ring QBs? Please. Dilfer won a ring. Hostetler won a ring. Theismann won a ring in two trips, and the Skins didn't lose on a game-breaking INT to the Raiders, the entire team collapsed. Wanna know who the best 1-ring passing QB was, ever? Rypien. Doug Williams racked up some heavy stats and took home a ring. Phil Simms? Not as flamboyant and hot-doggie as Manning, but he got his ring and was a force for ten years.

And Brady? A 6th-rounder, this guy has been to the Show three times and won three. How do these morons in the press ignore that when they say Peyton is the best now, in the past, or ever? Brady is the best of HIS generation and he's THERE with Montana, Bradshaw, and he's got one ring more than Elway. And he's gonna be there again.

Spare me the Manning-awe until he does something besides pile up a lot of regular season stats and lose in the playoffs. Remember, Manning's ring came in a Super Bowl against the Bears, the QB position manned by a gentleman named Randy Grossman. Manning? Looks like a punk to me.

Posted by: JamesChristian | February 8, 2010 6:33 PM

Football is a TEAM sport,idiot...and the best TEAM won! Manning did not choke...but his coach was certainly outsmarted!

Posted by: mottleb | February 8, 2010 7:04 PM

Manning didn't choke. The DB took a gamble and won. If the pattern run by Reggie Wayne was an out and go, he'd be looking pretty foolish right now.

Montana was the best playoff quarterback ever, but not even he won them all. Brady is a close second and may even be viewed as better before he is done.

Posted by: theduke89 | February 8, 2010 8:32 PM

"Many years ago I coined the phrase "Choker Manning" because up to 2006 he had never won a championship on any level. In the biggest games of his career, up to that point, he had played his worst games."

You are wrong now just like you were in 2006. Manning won an SEC Championship in 1997, his senior year. Last time I checked those titles are not handed out, but won on the field. I have no idea what his high school records were like, but since you were wrong about such an easy fact to check as his college career, your credibility is questionable at best.

Posted by: jayfrid | February 10, 2010 2:38 PM

JamesChristian wrote: "Phil Simms? Not as flamboyant and hot-doggie as Manning, but he got his ring and was a force for ten years."

You do realize Phil Simms has TWO rings, don't you? Just because he was injured and couldn't play in Super Bowl XXV doesn't mean he didn't contribute during the season and didn't earn a championship ring after the season was over.

I'm not a Giants fan, but Phil Simms is an underrated quarterback and I wonder if comments like this are part of the reason why. Would people look at his career differently if they realized he has won two Super Bowl titles, or do fans honestly think he didn't earn his second ring because he couldn't start in the last game?

Edward J. Cunningham
Rockville, MD

Posted by: femfour | February 19, 2010 5:42 AM

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